June 30, 2017 4:26 pm

B.C. overdose deaths — Drug supply is unsafe, don’t take the risk of dabbling: Coroner

FILE PHOTO: A man injects himself at a bus shelter in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, Monday, Dec.19, 2016.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
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With an average of more than four overdose deaths a day due to illicit drug use in B.C. in May, the coroners service is warning against anyone dabbling or experimenting with drugs because the risk is simply too high.

New numbers from the BC Coroners Service show 129 people died from illicit drug use in May; which is down slightly from the previous month’s figure of 136. Until November 2016, the province had never recorded as many as 100 drug deaths in a single month.

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However, since last year, it’s becoming more like the norm, with the number exceeding 110 deaths every month and December 2016 recording the highest number of deaths at 159.

“The number of deaths shows that the risks remain extreme. The drug supply is unsafe, and casual and occasional users are at high risk of overdose due to their opioid naiveté,” Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said in a release.

Further research by the coroner service shows the number of drug overdoses where fentanyl is found continues to climb. In 2016, the number of fentanyl-related deaths remained constant at about 60 per cent but in the first four months of 2017, that figure rose to 72 per cent. The number of fentanyl-related deaths for May are not yet available.

This, the coroner service says, means the drug supply is continuing to be toxic.

READ MORE: Surrey safe-injection sites approved to supervise snorting drugs or taking them orally

Other statistics that are remaining constant include: three-quarters of illicit drug deaths involve people between 30 and 59 years of age, four out of five who died were male and more than 90 per cent of the deaths happened in indoor setting. There were no deaths reported at supervised consumption sites or overdose prevention sites.

Lapointe also reiterated that those using illicit drugs — whether it’s opiates, amphetamines or cocaine — should do it only where medical help is available or at the very least, a sober person who has training and access to a naloxone kit.

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